I had a wonderful online conversation recently with a woman I met through a mutual friend many years ago. This person and I have never spent much time together in person but over the years have maintained contact through Facebook. We are similar in that we are both moms doing our darndest to raise up our families the best way we know how. We are different by way of geography, political and religious views. I live in the country/suburbs and she lives in a major metropolitan area. Think of the old children's story about the country mouse and city mouse. And by today's standards, it's not likely we would understand each other.
A few nights ago, she reached out to me to ask me some very pointed questions about my faith background and political views. I honestly try to follow my father's sage advice not to discuss religion and politics but I knew her questions were a heartfelt, honest attempt to understand a group of people she did not know very well or understand. Some of the questions posed were:
Why do so many people of my faith support a certain candidate?
Why are so many displeased with certain policies or potential policy changes?
Why are so many people fearful or angry?
I certainly did not feel qualified to speak for thousands of people but was able to share from my heart about my own experiences and views. I think I surprised her when she learned I did not share many of the views that have been presented across major media outlets or on social media. We realized how much the media distorts reality. Honestly, this discussion should not have even happened if we were playing by the social media rule book. Our conversation made its way from politics to faith. She does not consider herself religious but certainly respects people of faith. I told her I don't consider myself religious either, simply a believer in Jesus Christ and someone who wants to follow His example of grace and love towards others.
And then it hit me. Grace is just as much about seeking to understand our neighbor as it is loving our neighbor. We get caught up on definitions and that grace is offering unmerited favor to someone undeserving but it is just as much about understanding and even identifying when our image doesn't reflect our neighbor. What I realized is this lady with whom I was speaking was more Christ-like in her questions and desire to know more about me than many in my own faith background. Let me explain.
All throughout the three years of Jesus' ministry he interacted with all walks of life: religious and political authorities, the poor and destitute, the diseased and the mentally ill. In every case, the Son of God who put on flesh sought to understand individuals by asking questions. No condemnation and no rush to judgement or rush to defend Himself. Simple questions to know someone better. Upon the hearing of a person's heart, Jesus then spoke truth, provided for needs or brought about healing but it all started with seeking to understand and making sure the other person was heard first.
There are too many examples to list here but I would offer these interactions as examples of amazing grace:
The Samaritan Woman at the Well - understanding someone of another race and gender who has questionable moral judgement. John 4
Nicodemus - understanding the religious and those in authority. John 3
Legion - understanding the mentally ill. Mark 5
Mary, Martha, Lazarus - understanding those who grieve and who are dying. John 11
The Bible states several times in Mark and Matthew that Jesus was "moved with compassion" and that caused Him to reach out. Take time to read these chapters yourself and you will find compassion and genuine desire to know someone's heart. This is how my friend approached me. Her questions were out of compassion and a desire to understand and know me better not to defend her point of view or to convince me I was wayward in my own thinking. She peacefully shared her experiences and views after I shared mine and did so with respect and no judgement.
Our country needs people seeking to understand. Our neighbors and fellow citizens desperately crave someone who will offer a listening ear and heart that means no harm, if only for a brief moment. I learned from the city mouse that we are more alike than different and she challenged me to freely give the grace of understanding. I am thankful that God places people in my life who show me glimpses of His son so that I may know Him better.